These 20 Non-Electric Devices Will Work After an EMP

One of the greatest threats facing society today is that posed by an EMP. An EMP, short for electromagnetic pulse, could originate from natural cosmic phenomena or man-made weapon systems of the nuclear or non-nuclear variety.

non-electric devices collage

Whatever the cause, one powerful enough could conceivably plunge civilization across a large swath of the Earth back to the pre-industrial age in the blink of an eye.

Electrical grids, circuit boards and anything relying on them or connected to them will be severely damaged or destroyed outright if affected by the event.

This means that so many things we rely on today in our own lives and throughout society at large will be made more or less permanently offline.

Computers, automobiles, public electricity, controller systems and more, gone, hard bent. It is difficult to imagine going on in the aftermath of such a happening.

But go on you can, as civilization existed for far longer before the advent of the circuit board and electricity than after.

The solution? Accumulating and relying on tools and equivalent systems that do not utilize circuit boards, electricity or any other contrivance vulnerable to the damaging or destructive events of a high-energy EMP.

Many of these devices are simple. You likely have quite a few right now. We will be telling you about more in this article.

Manual Power Can Get it Done

Stop to think about how upside down your life and the world at large would be if, in an instant, all the electrical contrivances we use day in and day out suddenly stopped working, and worse yet could not be made to work again with any probability.

Getting up in the morning you wouldn’t be awoken by your alarm clock, be it your smart device or a digital model plugged into the wall. You couldn’t turn on the lights. Your electric toothbrush? Likely done for.

Moving on to the kitchen that means no coffee from the Keurig in your to-go cup and I hope you didn’t plan on driving to work since all of the many computers and circuit boards in your vehicle are kaput. No computer, no tablet, no cable TV, no nothing. History…

Sounds pretty harrowing, doesn’t it? No doubt it would be a calamitous event, one with far-reaching and virtually unknowable implications. However, you should take heart.

It would be one heck of an adjustment living in the aftermath of such an event but it should reassure you that countless generations of people did the exact same thing.

When your great, great, great grandparents were living their day to day lives without all of this technology we take for granted, it wasn’t called survival skills, it was just called living!

You can take a page from their book and go on living by using the tools and skills that were available to them.

Below is our list of common tools and implements that you should have on hand if you want to go on with your life more or less the same in the aftermath of an EMP.

All of them are replacements or supplements for devices or capability that is likely to be deleteriously affected by such a high energy emission.

This list is far from comprehensive but includes a big picture view of what you should acquire if you don’t want to be left flapping in the breeze.

1. Manual Toothbrush

I sure do love my electric toothbrush, and it is hard to imagine life without it. However efficient it is, it is also difficult to imagine how cumbersome and awkward it would be trying to use that bulky, heavy thing with that tiny head for anything approximating an ordinary toothbrush.

It is a small thing, but little problems can turn into big stressors, and in this case you can easily ameliorate the loss of a fancy electric toothbrush by keeping several packs of manual toothbrushes on hand.

Whatever kind you prefer, it doesn’t matter so long as you have them.

2. Percolator / Tea Kettle

The real crisis for some people living in the aftermath of an EMP will be the loss of coffee-making capability.

I can already hear the sweat breaking out on the foreheads of some of you! Do you even know how to make coffee without the classic electric drip coffee maker or Keurig machine? Not to worry, reader, it is far easier than you think.

There are a variety of low-tech, non-electric coffee makers out there but one that your great grandparents likely used that remains quite popular today is the simple percolator.

You can add grounds, add water and then place it on the fire or over a gas-powered stove I’m pretty soon you’ll have a nice, hot cup of joe to rival anything out of your usual machine.

For you tea drinkers, not much will change, but make sure you have a classic, non-electric tea kettle if you rely on an electric water heater.

3. Cast Iron Pan / Skillet / Dutch Oven

There are so many electric kitchen gadgets and appliances that will go down in the wake of an EMP, either being directly destroyed by the high energy emission in the case of modern models packed full of circuit boards or just knocked off line through the loss of the electrical grid overall. Your stove, your toaster, waffle iron, microwave, everything.

Don’t worry too much, though, because several items in your kitchen will remain use, and if you have a big collection of cast iron cookware, count yourself lucky.

Cast iron pans, skillets, baking sheets and perhaps most importantly Dutch ovens are multi-purpose, heavy-duty cooking implements that are just as much at home on your propane or charcoal grill outside as they are over an open, roaring fire.

You’ll need to adapt your technique and practice heat control in the meantime but rest easy knowing that your cookware can handle whatever the apocalypse can throw at it.

4. Mechanical Timer/Clock

If you are like me, you probably rely on a small fleet of timers in the kitchen usually managed by your smart device or built into your stove top or microwave to help you keep track of your various dinner time tasks.

Regrettably, all of these electrically powered or digital timers are going to go the way of the dodo as soon as the EMP hits, but meal prep demands will not change; you’ll need to keep precise track of how long you have various irons in the fire.

The solution is supremely simple. Simply acquire and have available bog standard mechanical kitchen timers.

These ticking, ringing contraptions might not be quite as precise as a digital timer, but they are more than close enough for anything but the most intricate, delicate cooking tasks. Where circuit boards will fail gears and springs will carry the day.

5. Can Opener

But the prevalence of fast, efficient, and quiet countertop electric can openers I rarely see the classic crank or manually operated ones making regular appearances in the kitchen.

I know a few people, even if you preppers, that don’t own one at all except for the handy little flip-out one on their Swiss army knife or multi-tool.

That is going to be a major bummer if an EMP occurs and you don’t have a quick and efficient way to access all of that canned food you’ve been stockpiling for just such an occasion.

Sure, that little Swiss army knife can opener can and will sail through a can with relative ease, but it is going to be hell on your hands when you’re doing that day in and day out just to get dinner ready. Grab yourself a full-size manual can opener and forget about those worries.

6. Mortar and Pestle

A mortar and pestle are used together to grind and crush, and can reduce all sorts of things from grains to dried veggies and even pills into a fine, fine powder.

There are all sorts of electric contrivances that can do the same thing, but very few will function reliably after an EMP, and fewer still manually operated equivalents will afford you the control and surety of a mortar and pestle.

This is a great gadget to have for the kitchen but also for other tasks in and around the workshop, though you should not use the same one for both sets of chores!

7. Solar Oven

Lots of preppers, your dear author here included, will surely miss their electric oven if an EMP hits.

Sure, you can use a charcoal or gas grill to achieve much the same, but those petroleum or wood-based fuels are decidedly limited compared to the virtually endless supply of electricity that normally flows into our homes. What is a prolific baker to do, then?

As it turns out, there is another virtually limitless source of heat we can take advantage of, even in the aftermath of an EMP.

Solar ovens harness the power of the sun to thoroughly cook food with surprising speed and efficiency so long as it is daytime and the skies are clear.

You can use your solar oven for pretty much everything you use a conventional electric or gas oven for and these have the advantage of being quite light and portable, and therefore an excellent addition to your survival supplies.

8. Manual Crank Grinder

The food processor has replaced a bevy of manually operated kitchen gadgets. But every food processor relies on electricity, electricity you just aren’t going to have after the big blackout.

If you are willing to supply a little bit of muscle, you can maintain the capability to render down nuts, grind meats and even liquefy softer foods using a manual crank grinder and a variety of attachments.

These ingenious devices, typically made out of cast iron but sometimes bronze, used to be a staple in every working kitchen, and we’re often designed to bolt to a countertop or work table.

Properly maintained, they work surprisingly well and will still work well today. New examples cost a pretty penny if you want to get a quality model, but chances are your grandparents or a local garage sale will produce one that you can spiff up and put back into service.

9. Iron Sights

Our modern appliances aren’t the only things that will be decimated by an EMP. Electro-optical sighting systems, red dots, holographic sights and others including optics with etched reticles that utilize and illumination system will all be completely disabled or degraded by an EMP.

Despite how tough, how capable, and how long-lasting these modern optics are they are not going to survive an EMP.

If you are completely dependent on one of these high-performance electoral optical gun sights you are going to be SOL in the aftermath.

Iron sights, be they fixed or deployable backup sites, will allow you to keep your firearms effective and in the fight.

In years past I wouldn’t even have needed to bring this point up but our optics are all so good you’ll see an increasing amount of firearms today that don’t even have backup iron sights.

10. Shovel

When the going gets tough, the tough get to digging. No matter what has happened and no matter where, you’ll always need a trusty shovel.

I know you probably don’t own an electric equivalent, but the reason shovels will become even more important in the aftermath of an EMP is that most pieces of heavy equipment will be rendered non-operational by the event.

That means that when serious digging needs to be done, it will be you and five, 10 or 15 of your closest friends furiously going at it with shovels the old-fashioned way.

If it sounds laborious, time consuming and grueling, you are quite correct but take heart knowing that it is still done this way in many poor or austere parts of the world.

You might not do any gardening, and you might not do any of your own landscaping, but you still need a shovel to be ready for all contingencies.

11. Hoe

Most preppers understand the importance of growing their own food, even if it is only as a supplement for what stored provisions they have on hand.

Tending to your own garden, or making ready for that first planting, means you’ll be doing plenty of hoeing in preparation. Save the jokes, people.

Compared to something like a power tiller or power aerator a hoe is a blister factory, and far slower but nonetheless this ancient agricultural tool has persisted more or less and its original form for all these long millennia because it works, plain and simple, and it can do so without the benefit of any electricity or fossil fuel.

12. Manual Sprayer

A manual sprayer is another invaluable tool in your arsenal that can help you deal with all sorts of EMP related problems around the home and the homestead.

These hand pump pressurized contraptions can easily take over in place of battery or generator powered pumps and are most commonly used for applying fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals but they have many more uses besides.

Probably my favorite is as an improvised outdoor shower. Simply paint the container black, fill it up with water and place it in the sun to warm.

After a couple of hours the water should be pleasantly warm and then you can pump up the container to pressurize it and use the wand to create a refreshing, cleansing spray.

Note, make sure you never, ever use a sprayer in this way that has at any point held any chemical contents of any kind. Get one for shower duty holding water only, and the other for all of your chemical related chores.

13. Chisels

Chisels are an invaluable addition to your post EMP tool chest, and are a perennially utilized tool for any woodworker.

Kept hair popping sharp and used with some skill and know-how chisels will easily allow you to create properly fitting joinery with wood or even effect repairs in conjunction with other tools and materials.

Obviously, many electric tools both handheld and stationary can do the job much faster but electricity is the one thing you won’t be able to count on at all post event.

Some sharp chisels, a sturdy mallet and a skilled hand can transport you into a Zen-like state well you do great things with wood.

14. Clamps

For construction, repairs and improvisations clamps are a boon. You can use clamps to hold together failing parts, stop liquids leaking from hoses and so much more.

It stands to reason that you’ll have plenty of opportunities and need to make repairs in the aftermath of something capable of causing as much destruction as an EMP.

But good clamps can be expensive and aren’t always easy to find so take the time to add some to your toolbox now while you can before you are forced to scavenge for them later.

15. Axe

An axe is a must-have inclusion for any survival tool set, and especially one that is focusing on EMP preparation.

You might think that the simple operation of a gas-powered chainsaw would survive an EMP event based on our current, real world understanding of its effects, and you are probably right.

An EMP will still cripple your chainsaw because it will effectively obliterate the supply chain that makes gasoline available to run it.

Once the supply of gas runs out and you don’t have any more on hand or are unable to scavenge it your chainsaw will be useless.

It will take longer, and be a hell of a workout, but your axe will never run out of gas until you do! Get a good one, learn how to maintain and sharpen it, and then keep it sharpened!

16. Hammer

For construction projects, repair projects and light demolition a sturdy carpenter’s hammer is what you need.

I don’t know too many handy, crafty people that don’t have a nail gun for the same occasions, but there isn’t a single one worth their salt who won’t have a hammer.

Just like the chainsaw above, an EMP might not affect a nailer that utilizes compressed air, and it definitely shouldn’t affect one that uses caps, but it will completely destroy the supply chain that makes the operation or acquisition of either possible.

That means you’ll be back to driving nails the old fashioned way, and where those other tools might let you down in the wake of such a catastrophic event a hammer will do the job if your arm can.

17. Handsaw

Reciprocating saws, band saws, jigsaws and every other kind of saw we rely on for demolition and construction projects all have the same Achilles heel: they rely on electricity in one form or another.

You don’t need me to tell you again that electricity is going to become an extraordinarily rare and precious commodity after an EMP. Hand saws however, don’t rely on electricity and so will not be affected.

A toolbox saw, coping saw and Japanese pole saw will cover virtually every imaginable need and take up very little space in your post-SHTF tool set.

18. Screwdrivers

Screwdrivers are an especially valuable tool for urban and suburban survival, and even for wilderness or rural survival, because everything that we depend on, every tool, every appliance and every gadget are held together by some type of fastener.

For most things that aren’t subjected to incredible operating forces these fasteners are usually screws.

Make sure you are ready for dealing with whatever kind of fastener you’re up against by obtaining a collection of screwdrivers for the task. Your favorite power driver will be on its last legs if it works at all after an EMP.

19. Files

Traditional files offer considerable control but work very slowly compared to a rotary tool or disc grinder but they will work, and work, and work as long as you can assuming you periodically take the time to clean the cuttings out of the teeth.

For shaping, modifying and removing metal a good set of files cannot be beat and the most aggressive ones can fly through softer metals with surprising speed.

Like all manual tools of this nature, they are 100% completely functional totally independent of electricity or anything else that an EMP might affect.

20. Hand Drill

If you were fortunate enough to have tool lovers in your family, you might have run across in your travels your granddad’s or great-granddads hand-powered drill.

They look like clumsy, ungainly contraptions but it is the only way that holes got made by hand before the advent of the electric drill.

I can promise you one thing; they will give you an entirely new appreciation for that same drill, because these things will get you working up a sweat.

Nonetheless, they do work and work efficiently but are highly dependent upon quality, sharp drill bits so make sure you obtain a stash of them and keep them handy also.


It is hard to overstate how devastating a high-powered EMP will be. The effect on much of the globe and society at large will be nothing short of an instant, complete paradigm shift.

With the majority of our electrical devices offline or hopelessly destroyed, we’ll need to revert to tools and technology that carried us two and through the industrial revolution.

Preparing accordingly with the right acquisitions and development of the right skill sets now will give you something of a cushion against this terrifying.

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